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Jess Latowicki‘s confessions on super-intimacy

Super Duper Close Up | trailer from Made In China on Vimeo.

Razor-sharp innovators Made In China make an eagerly anticipated return following the “breathtakingly subversive” ★★★★ Double Double Act (Time Out), “murderously entertaining” ★★★★ Tonight I’m Gonna Be The New Me (The Guardian) and “marvellously unusual” ★★★★ Gym Party (The Times).

Here, co-Director Jess Latowicki shares thoughts on the making of Super Dupa Close Up.

As we are nearing the end of the process of making Super Duper Close Up (EEK!) I’ve been trying to remember exactly the moment I was like ‘LET’S MAKE THIS THING, AND THIS IS WHAT IT WILL DEFINITELY BE ABOUT’. But I’ve been finding it sort of impossible. The show is a kind of furious distillation of the last 3-years of my life, it’s also complex and very wide-ranging. Its cross-hairs are undeniably focused on my experience as a woman now: half-waving, half-drowning amidst a glittering sea of beauty vlogs, glamour selfies, frozen pouts and desperate smiles. As the script comically testifies, I did a lot of googling. A lot of scrolling. But I also wrote and wrote and wrote, wild fantasies and close-to-the-bone autobiography and everything in between. I met academics to talk about the radicalization of young girls, I met plastic surgeons, I visited a medical research facility exploring sleep disorders. And I thought about family, inherited trauma, learnt behavior, self-improvement, my own anxiety.

And I got really into skincare. Like, really into it. I mean, I was already sort of pretty into it… I can attest that, as many more accomplished people have testified before me, there is something uniquely calming about being in control of a multiple step skincare routine during deeply troubling times. There’s an almost euphoric sting to a home glycolic acid peel followed immediately by some Vitamin C serum, derma-rolling and a soothing facemask. Of course, I do understand the implications of this – the relationship of the rise of extensive, expensive skincare routines to the myth of the ‘no makeup’ look on Instagram; the desire to present a low-maintenance public self, coupled with the private behind-scenes work that goes into getting a very specific ‘glow’ that makes your face look like an actual Instagram filter. It’s an enjoyable coping mechanism and distraction in a bat shit crazy world, but it’s also the latest version of cosmetic/beauty companies creating a problem and then selling women the solution. It’s fascinating to me that there is a huge expectation on people to be things that are often fundamentally opposed to each other, all at once.

So, wait – this whole show isn’t entirely about skincare, is it? (I hear you cry). Well, no, ok, it’s not - but it is about presenting a version of ourselves that is more than we could possibly be. Impeccably well-turned out and low-maintenance, hard-working and carefree, serious and frivolous. And as the line between our public and private selves becomes increasingly blurred, it can be challenging to distinguish what’s real and what’s staged in the overload of images we encounter.

The piece felt urgent to make because it’s about living in a world we’re still collectively struggling to get our heads round: a world where everything is virtual, and virtually everything is for sale. This isn’t just a question of technology (it’s not a piece ‘about’ Instagram and online shopping even if these are symptoms of whatever disease modern life has got!). But Super Duper Close Up does speak to a very contemporary form of anxiety, one that’s maybe developed sharply this decade fed by social media. The show zooms in on the feeling of being constantly looked at but never really seen; of always looking but never really seeing. And as part of this it explores the poisonous legacy of the male gaze and old gender stereotypes, asking whether we’ve actually moved beyond these, even in our own selfies and status updates. And asking what it means if our culture fetishizes and rewards women for their beauty and suffering.

There is a lot of anger behind those kind of questions, no doubt. Anger is something women sadly still need to fight to be allowed to express. But in Super Duper Close Up it’s not without humor, not simply directed outwards or at easy targets. We could have made a much simpler piece that categorically said: ‘men are bad! Boo! Down with the patriarchy!’ and ‘capitalism is bad! Boo! Down with advertising and social media and the old slogan ‘sex sells’!‘ – we could have made that show, but we didn’t want to. The world doesn’t need that show. It’s more complicated, more screwed up, more embedded than that.

Super Duper Close Up is an attempt to push and prod and move the conversation on. And of course, to make a compelling and bold new formal experiment along the way! A ravishing, uncomfortably entertaining and funny spectacle that smacks people in the head when they were looking the other way and sends them out not with answers but questions, questions, questions. 

Jess Latowicki, co-Director | madeinchinatheatre.com | @MadeInChinaThtr

Super Duper Close Up
The Yard Theatre
13-24 November, 8pm
Tickets and Info: theyardtheatre.co.uk